Areas of Concentration: Life Sciences, Psychology, and Technical Writing and Communication
“I think the turning point for me was when I took psychopathology my freshman year,” says Amanda Ichel. “It's probably my favorite class I've taken to date. That's when I switched my major to (include) neuroscience because I wanted to learn more about psychology from a biological perspective.”
Creating a Meaningful Degree
Amanda spent her sophomore year as a neuroscience major with a psychology minor before transferring to the Inter-College Program. “I didn't think that triple majoring was an option, especially since I was going into my junior year, so I was really grateful when I found the ICP major. It really let me do exactly what I wanted to do.”
When Amanda got her degree proposal approved by her advisor, she says it was like a weight had been lifted. “I was kind of weighed down by all these classes I wasn't interested in and things I didn't think I needed. When I would look ahead at my schedule, it would make me a little bit discouraged because I didn't see exactly what I wanted there.”
Her official ICP areas of concentration are Life Sciences (with a focus in neuroscience), Psychology, and Technical Writing and Communication. Amanda appreciates being able to connect these subjects that are important to her in a unique way. She says synthesizing them together “has been very freeing” and made her a more well-rounded learner.
At the Intersection of Technology and Mental Health
Amanda currently works in the Translational NeuroEngineering Lab. She found her position there by looking up the researchers on the department website and reading their work.
“That lab is very much neuroscience and engineering together. I thought (the PI’s) work was really interesting, so I just emailed him.” He agreed to take her on, and she has been there since her first year at the U.
Amanda studies the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, to treat depression. When you have depression, Amanda explains, “parts of your limbic system, these deep-brain areas, aren't as active.” With TMS, they put a magnetic coil on the patient’s head to target and activate those areas with magnetic waves.
It is used in conjunction with traditional therapy and medication. Since a full course of TMS lasts 36 days, every weekday, it is typically used by people with treatment resistant depression who haven't responded well to medication.
“I do a lot of research on predicting who's going to respond the best to TMS and whose depression is going to decrease the most,” she says. “That's been super interesting because it really combines everything in my major to a T.”
Amanda also works in the University Admissions Office and at an outpatient psychiatry clinic, Plymouth Psych Group, as a care coordinator and a TMS coordinator. She uses the skills gained in her major in all of these jobs, particularly at Plymouth Psych Group.
In the future, she may pursue a master's degree in either counseling psychology or clinical psychology, and maybe even a doctoral degree. She hopes to become either a mental health therapist or clinical psychologist.
The Big Takeaway
“Synthesis across disciplines is very important (and) opening your mind to realize that academics don't have to be so rigid. You don't have to just be a business major if you're also interested in liberal arts. You can combine basically anything you want in the program, and that's why it's so creative and fun. When I meet people who have the major, which isn't that often, it's always, oh, what were your areas? What was your major? I really like that part as well.”
Memorable Instructors and Experiences
“They were very lively and excited, and they used humor in their lectures. You're still learning rigorous material and being tested on it, but it was something more. I looked forward to going to class because I knew the professor was going to make it engaging.
In Neuroanatomy we had a lab section where we got to dissect sheep brains. They had human spines and brains that had been donated, and at the very end they had an optional cadaver lab. That was my second time I've been in a cadaver lab, and it was honestly such a, I don't know the word to even describe it. It was kind of a surreal experience.”
Advice for Prospective Students
"Do your research and make sure that you're coming up with a very well-rounded degree. In your proposal, convey why it's necessary, why you can't do it a different way, and how it's going to benefit you.
"Don't be afraid to do it. I was nervous at first, because it is a major change. It was really important to rely on the resources I had, advisors, online materials, and looking at other people's degrees and how they structured them. So as long as you're willing to put in the work and you have a good idea, don't be afraid to go for it."
Photos of Amanda courtesy of Amanda Claseman
Mia Boos is a writer and content strategist with the College of Continuing and Professional Studies, covering the College’s graduate programs and undergraduate individualized degree programs. She joined the CCAPS Marketing team in 2014 and has worked for Thomson Reuters and New York University. Connect with her via LinkedIn.